Alice Miller, child abuse and mistreatment

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Terrifying Nightmares of Children
Saturday August 25, 2007

Dear Alice Miller,

I am the same person who wrote to you the letter 'Creative Remembering or Just Craziness' (July 26). I have a terrible time sleeping at night and usually must wait for the sun to rise to feel comfortable enough to go to sleep. My therapist is encouraging me to speak with my child inside, but all I could tell the child is that I am not yet ready to speak with her. The reason for this is that I am terrified that this will bring up unbearable new memories about sexual abuse and I am afraid for my life to fall apart once again. I wanted to first rent out my rental property so I will not have any financial worries should I become devastated again by memories. I decided to hurry up with the rental property so I will have rid of this worry. It felt good to make the decision to do this as it felt to me that the child would then not have to wait so long.

I actually fell asleep before 4:30 a.m. while it was still dark outside. I assumed I would get up much earlier than usual and see to the empty house. Instead, I woke up at 6:00 a.m. with one of the worst nightmares I have ever had. It was about my three daughters. And my mother. She talked me into coming somewhere with her and I brought the kids. They were younger than they are now and were all very small. We went to this large house that was also some kind of club/bar. It was a crowded and nasty place filled with disgusting low-life people. I didn't want to stay there, but I had to because one of my girls disappeared. Then another and another. Every time I would find one daughter, another one would disappear before I could get them all out of the building. I was searching for them. When the first one disappeared, I asked my mother to help me. I knew one of the terrible and perverted men in the place had taken her. I just knew. I asked my mother to help me get her back. I thought Mom could help because she seemed to know these people very well. My mother wouldn't help me. She was very mean and nasty about it, too. She seemed to be drunk and she didn't care, but she knew what they were doing. I begged her to help me find my baby and all she did was give me a hateful look and say, "They're tying her up with ropes." I searched everywhere and asked everyone and no one would help me. This place was connected to a restaurant. I thought someone there would help me, but as soon as I went in I knew that those inside were corrupt and that the same man owned both places. I don't know how I finally found my daughter, but I did. It went much the same with each girl, over and over. When I would find one of them, I could see what had happened to her by the way she was acting. Especially the youngest one (who looks just like me). It was so very, very horrible. I didn't even have time to comfort my poor babies because I had to get them all out of there before it happened again, but I couldn't. It kept happening. A child would disappear every time I thought I was close to finding our way out of there. At one point, I had all three girls with me and I had finally convinced a woman in the bar to tell me where my mother's keys were so I would have a way to get the kids away from there. We were almost out. I was so close to being able to take my hurt babies home and do something to help them. Finally, at the end, I was once more looking for one of my daughters. We were almost out of there with some car keys when she went missing. I managed to alert the police to our situation because they had come into the neighborhood for something else and I was somehow able to get to them. They found torn little girls' pajamas in the kitchen. Pink ones, like my missing daughter was wearing. I saw them and some other childrens' pajamas as well. There was a body. No one told me, but I knew. I didn't want to think it could be my baby. Couldn't be. I had to keep looking, but the police told me that the building was on fire and I had to leave right away. I didn't want to. I wanted to keep looking, but I could smell the heat of the kitchen and I was afraid for the other two. I couldn't stay, but I couldn't leave, either. I woke up.

In this nightmare, my mother said, "They're tying her up with ropes." She told me once, many, many years ago, that she used to tie a rope around her waist and tie the other end around my waist when we went camping at the lake when I was very little. (I have crippling fears about nature, camping, tents, travel, etc.) She said she did this to keep me from drowning while she slept. Something is wrong with that story. There's more there. I know there is. My body knows. It has told me in the past. I once had very serious and very painful carpal tunnel syndrome. It disappeared very suddenly when I got away from the abusive older man who had raped me. My mother only 'volunteered' this information about tying me to her because I had pestered her for information about something for some unknown reason. I don't remember what compelled me to pester her, what I asked or why. I don't even remember how old I was when I did it.

My grandmother (Mom's mother) admits that she used to tie one of my uncles in his bed when he was little. She says that otherwise he would get up and wander and she was afraid that he would play with matches or something.

This nightmare has hurt me. I woke up in a panic to check on my children and make sure they were still safe in their beds. I woke up my husband. I crawled back into bed and cried. My stomach was a mess. I'm scared, angry, frustrated and sick. I'm just sick. I'm all of that AND I'm doubting myself now, too. I worry that it is not normal to read these things into a nightmare and I don't know what to think about all of this. Why would I have that dream and why dream that my mother said my little girl was being tied up with ropes? Why would I then remember what she told me about tying a rope on my waist at the lake when I was a very small girl? I want to tell myself that this was just a dream and that I only had it because of fear, but I am having the feeling that there is something more to it. This feeling makes me feel crazy in the same way that I was feeling it when I wrote you the last letter. I could not go to take care of the empty house because I felt too tired and unwell. It is 6:00 a.m. again. I have not yet slept and I have a very bad headache.

AM: Nobody wants to believe that their horrible memories and dreams recount us real histories. Especially when the parents deny everything. If I remember well, your mother told you "Shame on you" when you wanted to talk with her about your father’s abuse. Such a mother is able to confuse her child completely and to burden her with terrible feelings of guilt at a very tender age. Your dream shows you what she ALWAYS has done. It opens your eyes. You are thus no longer in real danger, as long as you don't try to protect her again. The danger today is your illusion: that she will read and understand your novels, that she will show empathy and will stay on your side. She clearly showed that she will not. The dream tells you the truth that you would prefer not to know; but it is certainly more healing to know it than to deny it.

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